Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Bing West's "The Millennial Generation"

Guest blogger Nicole Daddario sat in on Bing West's session yesterday, entitled "the Millennial Generation." Below are her comments:

Francis J. "Bing" West is an established author who has been to Iraq sixteen times, and to Afghanistan six times. He spent this time going on patrols with the troops and writing about his experiences. He shared his firsthand experiences with us through many interesting stories from his journeys.

Mr. West began his session with a map of where the war is taking place, and identifies the majority of the population that inhabits each area. He told stories and showed pictures of when the Taliban would post their flags in the same area that our troops had already taken over, just to make sure their presence is still known. He cautions that no one should ever go near those flags, as there are likely to be at least 2 mines somewhere nearby. He told a story of one of his favorite soldiers whom he became close with. The soldier carried a metal detector to find Improvised Explosive Devices (IED's) before they became destructive. The soldier always succeeded in deactivating the IED, until the day after Mr West left the country. There had been multiple IED's planted in this final location, and the solider lost his leg.

Mr. West makes many of his observations based off of comparisons of the current war versus the Vietnam War, in which he also has experience. For example- he compares the mindset of each war. His Vietnam example is from 1961, the famous quote by John F. Kennedy, "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country". The mindset of the current war is "How is the war in Iraq helping me?" This leads into the statistics of the volunteers currently fighting, which he notes consist of mostly middle to upper class citizens, with most being in the higher 50% of high school graduates. Many serve for five years, and get out with no retirement. He poses the question of cultural and ideological separation being a cause for concern, and believes that the next war will have shocking casualties. Mr. West also notes that there is less belief in God and Eternity, which means less people are willing to die. Unlike in Vietnam, where the reality of death was more accepted.

Mr. West's analysis of the volunteers who are currently fighting certainly show a difference between past wars. He makes a good point of the biggest dilemma in Afghanistan being its poor leadership and their lack of merit in the way they operate.  They need a stronger army. We will not know how the country will turn out until we are out of there.

No comments: